Like a certain segment of Americans, I grew up listening to a lot of Irish folk music, even though my family is generic Northern European mish-mash and not particularly Irish. It didn't occur to me until I was older that some of that music is still pretty controversial in the UK; for some folks there it's as unpleasant as if Italians were really big into songs lionizing Osama Bin Laden and lauding 9/11. When I was in the invasion of Iraq we had an attached news crew with our Light Armored Recon unit, with two of the cameramen being British veterans who'd fought in Northern Ireland, and one day one asked to borrow my iPod (then an amazing new invention). Not thinking about it, I passed it off to him, and within minutes he was calling over to his buddy "hey Bobby, this yank's got a bunch of Rebel songs!"
For the goons here who listen to Irish music but maybe never thought much about the context, or those unfamiliar with the genre entirely, and for nerds like me who enjoy the layers of history and conflict in the music, I thought it'd be cool to have a thread where we post clips of Irish music about the conflicts, both from the Republican (Catholic pro-unification) and Loyalist (Protestant pro-British) sides, and provide a little background for each song, explain some of the references, etc.
I'll kick off with a catchy song, Come Out Ye Black and Tans: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FCnGD6xv5ik
(if you prefer to hear a more Oi!-influenced version, here's a different cover: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0gl44iK_FUA)
The "Black and Tans" was the nickname of the Royal Irish Constabulary Special Reserve, a force of British troops (largely WWI veterans) who were shipped over to Ireland to support the pro-British Royal Irish Constabulary during the Irish War of Independence (1919–1921). They came by the name due the mix of uniform types that they wore, with pieces from both the British military and Royal Irish units. The Black and Tans got a really bad rep for war crimes during the counter-insurgency (though some of the rep is through conflation with the even nastier Auxiliary Division, though some people use B&T to cover both units). To this day they're hated, to the point that it was literally a big deal in 2006 when Ben and Jerry's introduced "Black and Tan" ice cream (a delicious-sounding cream stout and chocolate flavor) and had to issue an apology.
I'll explain a few of the key references from some lines:
I was born on a Belfast street where the Loyal drums did beat.
The Lambeg drum is an huge bass marching drum, used by Protestant civic organizations in Northern Ireland for parades. As we'll see throughout this thread, as innocuous as it sounds to an American, parades are a Big loving Deal in Northern Ireland. Largely because both sides use them as deliberate provocations to start poo poo. So basically the singer starts out describing how he lived in a mixed area and had to deal with militant Protestants marching around and banging on drums to intimidate local Catholics.
Show your wife how you won medals down in Flanders,
Again a reference to the WWI veteran status of a lot of Black and Tans, basically a "so you were hot poo poo in Europe? Step up then."
Come tell us how you slew them poor Arabs two by two,
Another bash on British veteran troops, mocking them for imperially whomping on barely-armed people in Middle East.
Come let us hear you tell how you slandered great Parnell,
Charles Parnell (1846–1891) was a member of the British House of Commons, who despite being Anglo-Irish and Protestant, was in favor of Home Rule for Ireland. He and some of his compatriots ended up getting thrown in jail for opposing new legislation effecting Ireland, but were let out after renouncing violence. Here's a Punch caricature depicting Parnell as Dr Frankenstein, having brought the Fenian (Irish militant) creature to life:
When our heroes of '16 were executed?
This refers to the Easter Rising of 1916, when Irish rebels, figuring the Brits would be all tied up with World War I, tried to seize Dublin (with some support of donated rifles from the German government). The Rising was smacked down by the British military and police, some 3,500 people were arrested, ninety sentenced to death, and 15 ultimately executed. If you know the song Zombie by the Cranberries, they give a shout-out there with "it's the same old thing/ since 1916."
The General Post Office in Dublin was the headquarters for the rising, and is basically the Alamo of Ireland. Apparently claiming any family ties to the Rising is a prestigious deal, as witnessed by the joke "Q: Why did they build the GPO so big? A: So everybody's grandad could fit inside it."
With a verse or two of Stephen Behan's chorus:
I'll admit this one stumps me; Stephen Behan (1891–1967) was a Republican writer, but I'm not running across anything about what song's he's famous for. That said, his brother-in-law Peadar Kearney wrote some extremely popular songs including the Irish National Anthem, and the very stirring song Foggy Dew that I'll cover in a later post.
So that's "Black and Tans" and enough context to get you through the song. Let me know if you have follow-up questions on this one, or feel free to post another song and explain it, or a song you like but don't understand and want help analyzing. And in a few days I'll do another post, but to keep balance I'll mix in some Loyalist/Protestant songs too.
|# ? Feb 3, 2018 20:15|
|# ? Feb 22, 2018 22:32|
Thanks for making this thread; I got really into the Dubliners and Irish music in general after taking a class in high school on Joyce of all things, and have been listening to them and other related groups since. The Dubliners took a more neutral tone (as they were at their height during the latter parts of the Troubles in the 60's and 70's and probably didn't want to attract negative attention) and generally didn't sing the more explicitly violent rebel songs like groups like the Wolfe Tones would. However, they did quite a few songs about the Easter Rising and the events directly leading up to it; James Larkin is one of my favorites for how unvarnished and direct it is. I believe their version of I'm Asking You Sergeant Where's Mine and The Town I Loved So Well are the exceptions.
I think it is also worth bringing up Irish songs specifically about Irish prisoners transported to Australia: The Fields of Athenry is probably the most well known example, but I Wish I Was Back Home in Derry is by far my favorite and was written by Bobby Sands himself.
|# ? Feb 4, 2018 17:36|
The song was written by Dominic Behan - Stephen's son (and brother of author Brendan Behan). It just fits with the narrative of Dominic's song ("each and every night when my da would come home tight/he'd invite the neighbors outside with this chorus").
|# ? Feb 5, 2018 19:20|
@El Miguel: I missed the meta-joke there, thanks!
For the next song I'll do something of the Loyalist/Protestant line. I had vague intentions of keeping the songs overall balanced, but in total frankness a lot of Loyalist music is really, really lovely. Nationalist/Republican music is generally pretty straightforward Irish folk (with the occasional rock or punk cover thereof), so if you like that genre you'll dig most tracks. Loyalist music has a weird mish-mash of influences, with some being just straight Irish folk, others being more pop, various military-esque marching songs, a whole chunk heavily influenced by American Country & Western for some reason, and omnipresent use of lovely drum machines and Casio keyboards. It's to the point that many Loyalist tracks on YouTube have mocking comments from Republicans asking "how is your side so shite at music?"
That said, here's a cool acapella folksong with a ton of historical content to unpack: The Orange Tree. Some of the history stuff may be really familiar to some readers, but to cover everyone I'll cover even the basics in this post.
When William came to England, the King of it to be,
Song kicks off with a shoutout for one of Protestant Ulster's greatest heroes: King William III, who was actually Dutch. Long/short, after the English Civil War, the Stuart dynasty of Scottish kings was restored James II came to the throne of England, Ireland, and Scotland. It was a big issue of concern that he was Catholic so some members of Parliament conspired to invite over the Protestant ruler Prince William of Orange (who was basically head of the Netherlands) and his wife Mary who was James II's daughter (but a Protestant). The Dutch sailed over in 1688 and with just a few minor scuffles James II's supporters collapsed, and he fled to Ireland where he could rely on Catholic supporters. William followed him to Ireland and kicked off the Williamite Wars there, covered in the rest of the song.
He brought a plant along with him of the Auld Orange Tree;
This is pretty much just a pun; William III had inherited the title of Prince of Orange (Orange being a tiny principality in what is now Southern France, nowhere near the Netherlands), so just out of wordplay orange became his official color, and the Ulster Protestants glommed onto that and made it the official color of Irish Protestants, who sometimes call themselves "Orangemen". So in any Loyalist songs/art/etc you're going to get a bunch of orange stuff.
When a few branches there sprung up and frighten'd Popery.
"Popery" is one of several anti-Catholic slurs popular with loyalists, up there with "papists" or "romish". The overall thrust of the slurs being that Catholics aren't followers of Jesus like the Protestants, they're followers of some weird old dude in Rome.
'Twas on the walls of Derry, where the Orangemen did parade,
To fight King James and all his men, they never were afraid;
The Siege of Derry in 1689 is one of the top historical points in Loyalist memory. When James II fled to Ireland he largely got support in most areas, marched into Dublin unopposed, etc. However, there were just a few fortified and militarized towns up in the north that refused to join the Jacobite (James II) side, so a group of some 1,200 Jacobite Highlanders marched up to Derry to seize it for James. Per legend, a dozen-some young apprentice boys in Derry stole the keys to the medieval walled city at its center, and locked the gates against the Jacobite troops. Some months later, the larger Jacobite army showed up to attack; James called for the Derry garrison to give up, getting a reply of "No surrender" which is to this day a big Loyalist slogan. The Jacobites besieged the old walled city of Derry for over 100 days, until the siege was broken by British ships, by which point half the population of Derry had died from injuries, hunger, and disease.
We beat them back from Drogheda - from Drogheda - and the Boyne.
He took the plant along with him, and placed it in the Boyne;
And with his troops, courageously, he fought them one, two, three -
The Battle of the Boyne is another point of highest importance to Loyalists. In 1690 William landed on the Irish coast with the intent to capture Dublin, and James drew up a defensive line on the River Boyne, some 30 miles outside of Dublin. My understanding is that militarily the battle wasn't particularly exciting; both sides made some major mistakes and wasted a lot of time and effort and missed opportunities, and relatively few casualties. But the key gist is that James executed an orderly retreat with his troops and William pressed through and seized Dublin. So even though he hadn't laid down any major military hurt on James, William scored massive morale/optics points and James returned to exile in France, leaving his troops to tough it out for the remainder of the war.
It grew in summer season - Oh! pleasant 'twas to see -
The Winter season it came on and cropp'd our Orange tree.
This one I'm not sure what tragedy the "winter" refers to; maybe referring to the Partition of Ireland in 1921 where six counties (now Northern Ireland) stayed with the UK but the 26 in the south set off on their own path towards independence?
For where there is one branch dropp'd off, we have engrafted five.
Another one I'm not sure on, but have two guesses:
-- The "one and five" could refer to the six counties that make up Northern Ireland. Basically a "we gained a toehold in one and added five more"
-- The "five" could be some reference to the Red Hand of Ulster emblem, but that's just a wild guess.
And let us live in unity, and evermore agree,
And on the twelfth day of July see fruit upon our tree.
The Twelfth is the highlight of the Loyalist calendar, commemorating the Battle of the Boyne, and is celebrated with huge bonfires, parades, and the like. But you can draw a lot of parallels with Confederate allegiance in the US, in that there's an underlying "hey we're on top, know your place" aspect to it. And much like the Confederates, a lot of Orange traditions aren't necessarily unbroken lines, but are retro-history dug up in later years to validate current concerns. Kind of like how Southerners mysteriously weren't big on the Confederate flag, but come the 1960s all of a sudden they're huge into it and building tons of new statues and naming more schools after Confederate generals. I'm showing my bias here, but it's an event with pretty rightist overtones.
In any case, for a large number of Protestant songs we might look at in this thread, you'll see mention of "the Twelfth"; interestingly enough the annual BBC coverage The Twelfth is the longest-running TV program in Northern Ireland.
The parades go pretty smoothly sometimes:
And other times not so well...
Catholic Republicans hold parades as well, though as I understand it none are as big as the Protestant observances of the 12th. To keep all this poo poo straight, for years Northern Ireland had the Parades Commission which had to approve every parade, and had to lay down a ton of rules like "no paramilitary clothing or carrying arms". And unsurprisingly the Commission got a lot of hostility from the Orange Orders for limiting Are British Rights, so it can be a cluster.
Republican parades got pretty edgy during the Troubles:
In the modern day, Republican parades are generally more chill, but there's occasional Loyalist outrage over the occasional wearing of masks, paramilitary clothing, etc. And plenty of cases where the cops have to turn out in force to keep the two sides separated:
And apparently "historical reenactment" is a great way to argue for having guns at your parade:
|# ? Feb 9, 2018 21:53|
This is a cool thread, thank you.
|# ? Feb 10, 2018 00:37|
Glad to help!
For the next song, this is one of the few cases I know where a Republican song is based on a non-Irish melody. Plenty of Loyalist songs are covers/parodies of existing popular American or British songs, but this is a rare case of a cover on the IRA side.
"SAM Missiles in the Sky": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rb9m2IU46Tc
(apologies but I'm having trouble finding a YT clip that's not a live concert recording, but at least this clip has cool visuals)
Well I have been a Provo now for fifteen years or more
"Provo" is short for Provisional Irish Republican Army, the primary IRA branch from 1969 until the 1998 Good Friday Agreement that ended most of The Troubles. There have been (and still are) various offshoots and branches of the IRA, ranging from the actual military of the nascent Irish Republic during the War of Independence, then the "Old IRA" that after the war continued to try to get Northern Ireland back, etc. But the PIRA was the main Troubles movement. In the modern day, there are various groups like the Real IRA, Óglaigh na hÉireann (ONH), and the Continuity IRA, as well as a faction of PIRA members who re-joined the fight in 2011 are are just calling themselves IRA now.
Of Armalites and mortar bombs I thought I knew the score
I'll get more into the Armalites in a future post, but for now I'll just say it refers to Cold War-era semi-automatic rifles designed by the Armalite company in the USA, same folks who designed the American M16 service rifle in use from Vietnam up until today.
For mortars, for those of y'all that aren't military geeks, mortars are those small cannons, usually about a meter long, that are aimed at a very steep angle to lob a small artillery shell way up high and loft it down onto a target. While the IRA had a good amount of smuggled military gear, my understanding is they didn't have any/many formal mortars, but mostly made their own. They were surprisingly effective with them (more on that later), and some of their designs have been used up to this day in insurgencies in Colombia, Iraq, etc. If anyone wants more of a mil-geek technical description, sing out and I can do a post just on mortars.
Now we have a weapon that we've never used before
The Brits are looking worried and they're going to worry more
This points to the overall PSYOPS gist of this song, trying to arouse morale amongst IRA supporters and discourage their enemies with some pretty menacing new weapons that they'd imported, as we'll see in the chorus.
Tiocfaidh ár lá, sing up the 'RA
Tiocfaidh ár lá is Gaelic for "our day will come" and is a popular Republican slogan. Apparently in the UK you can literally get arrested for disorderly conduct for using this phrase in public.
On a personal note, a buddy of mine who was part-Irish American got a tattoo of that slogan on his leg. And only later found out that it can really stir up some poo poo in the UK, so on all his trips there he wore long trousers. Particularly since he was a US gov't employee and really didn't need to cause an international incident.
"Up the 'RA" of course is basically "cheers for the IRA".
SAM missiles in the sky
A "SAM" is a surface-to-air missile, in this case man-portable shoulder-fired models, akin to the kind of weapon the US covertly gave to the Afghans to enable them to take out Soviet aircraft.
It's not just empty propaganda, the IRA did indeed acquire Strela-2 and possibly SA-7 Grail surface-to-air missiles (received from Libya's Gaddaffi in the 1980s as revenge against the Brits), best as anyone can tell they never actually *used* them. Whether that's due to lack of training, or fears of provoking a really harsh British response, I don't know. That said, they did take down a few British helicopters in other ways, which I'll cover later in the song.
It is maybe worthy of note that, despite tons of photos of the IRA showing off weapons that you can find on Google, I don't see any of them posing with SAMs. Again just speculating, but I'd imagine that's because the higher-ups kept *really* tight control on those lest some local commander get aggressive and open a can of worms. Similar missiles were used during the Rhodesian War (Rhodesia was a South Africa-like apartheid state in what is now Zimbabwe), when Indigenous African rebels twice took out passenger airliners full of civilians with SAMs. And I'd imagine the IRA didn't want to deal with the blowback of something that messy.
For reference, here's a non-IRA example of a Strela-2 missile:
I started out with petrol bombs and throwing bricks and stones
For my fellow Americans, a "petrol bomb" is what we'd call a Molotov cocktail.
Then there came internment in the year of '71
Operation Demetrius kicked off in 1971, and imprisoned without trial 342 people (all allegedly Republicans). It continued to 1975, alongside allegations of torture by the British military, and overall arrested 95% Republicans, even though during the same time Loyalist militias committed a number of attacks against the IRA, and more frequently just against Catholic civilians. Ultimately, this substantially strengthened the IRA, leading to increased recruitment and heightened attacks, including more attacks focused directly on the British Army as opposed to Loyalists or the Constabulary.
All through the days of hunger strike I watched my comrades die
This one verse refers to some really interesting history. In 1972 as a concession to the IRA during some truce talks, the Northern Irish government created the Special Category Status, essentially recognizing IRA members as political prisoners or prisoners-of-war rather than as criminals. That meant that imprisoned IRA members didn't have to do any work in jail, got to wear their own civilian clothing, had much more generous rules for visitors and care packages, be housed together as a group with members of their faction, etc.
In 1976, the Northern Irish government decided this was too lenient and bad for prison discipline, so they set a deadline after which all IRA prisoners would be held as standard criminals instead. This kicked off a series of events known as the "blanket protest" and the "dirty protest". IRA members refused to wear a prison uniform, so would strip naked and wear a prison blanket instead. Since they couldn't leave their cells out of uniform, the British gave them chamber pots and hand basins, but after some confrontations and beatings, the IRA members refused to use those too, and would literally smear poo poo on the walls of their cells to keep it from piling up.
In 1980, IRA members in prison (male and female) demanded a restoration of their political prisoner privileges and several dozen went on hunger strike, which was called off by the participants when one member was near-death. Going into 1981, the government tried to compromise by giving them generic civilian clothing (but not letting them wear their own clothes). A second hunger strike was called, and ultimately that year 10 prisoners died of hunger, but the strike was eventually wound down after the families of prisoners started consenting to medical intervention to save dying prisoners, undermining the lethality of the protests. By this time the IRA prisoners had gotten at least partial concessions on all their SC privileges, other than having to do work in prison.
Much like the Internment itself, the breaking of the hunger strike was intially seen as a victory for the British government, but was ultimately Pyrrhic since it led to increased IRA recruitment, new attacks specifically targeting prison officers outside of work, and a 1984 bombing at a Conservative Party conference in Brighton, England, which almost took out Margaret Thatcher.
I can't forget the massacre that Friday at Loughgall
"Massacre" is subjective here, but in 1987 at Loughhall the 8 IRA fighters attacked a Royal Ulster Constabulary barracks in a village, with one member driving a backhoe loaded with explosives through the fence and detonating it inside, destroying half the base. The other fighters bailed out of a van and started firing on the buildings, only to realize that it was a settup, and 24 member of the SAS (British special forces) were waiting in ambush for the attack, the plans had been leaked. All eight fighters were killed, making it the most lethal engagement of the Troubles for the IRA, and there were accusations that three of the injured IRA fighters would have lived if attended to, but were executed while wounded.
I salute my fallen comrades as I watch the choppers fall
Okay, here's the meat of it: despite the bragging in the song, the IRA never actually shot down anything with SAMs. That said, they did manage to down several helicopters in other ways:
-- I don't know if this is the absolute first, but the first famous downing was the downing of a Gazelle in 1978. This was at a base right on the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, which was a dangerous area since it was easy for the IRA to jump between countries so they could move without the British tracking them. The helicopter was sent out to support ground troops under attack on a border observation post, but the IRA directed fire from their M60 medium machineguns (the ones the US used in Vietnam, the "Rambo" gun). They didn't actually shoot down the bird, it was more that the pilot lost control taking evasive action to avoid ground fire. The commanding officer of the unit was killed, two crew injured, and the pilot saved by a good helmet. The IRA successfully withdrew back across the border and escaped.
-- In 1990 the IRA brought down a Gazelle helo with heavy-weapons fire after a helicopter followed a suspicious convoy which turned out to be bait to lure the British into a prepared ambush. They're unsure as to which weapon brought the helicopter down (three crew were injured when it crash-landed), but one likely possibility is Soviet DShKs heavy machineguns provided by Gaddafi. The DShK is a really formidable weapon, probably the best thing short of a SAM for taking down a helo. We called them "dishkas" in Iraq, and had I been on a helo and heard the crew chief shout "they've got a dishka" I would've been pissing myself. While it is *possible* to take down a helo using an RPG (which is exactly what happened in the Blackhawk Down case in Somalia), you need to be a good gunner and really close (like 100m or less) from a stationary helo, and/or extremely lucky. Here's a 90-second documentary about a 1988 shootdown, also with machineguns. The gunner to the far left is manning a Dishka, and the smaller machineguns are MAG-58s (which the US still uses as the M240): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nIgNj43S9sE
-- In 1994 the IRA had their most dramatic helo takedown on a Lynx. The helo was hovering 100ft above the landing pad when a homemade mortar lobbed a 70kg shell at it from 150yds away, and nailed it right in the tail, causing it to spin out and crash land, with no severe injuries although one guy was pulled out the wreckage just minutes before the helo exploded. I would say that's just a luck shot, but the IRA did almost the exact same thing a few months later, so apparently that's just some pretty drat good mortaring, or some stellar luck twice in a row.
TapTheForwardAssist fucked around with this message at Feb 12, 2018 around 04:31
|# ? Feb 12, 2018 00:02|
This is a fascinating and wonderful thread. Thank you so much for doing it.
It's doubly wonderful since I'm coming off listening to 1916 Centenary Miniseries done by a podcast I follow, going over the Irish uprising which set off a lot of The Troubles. It's great for an American like me who has no clue about the symbolism behind a lot of the lyrics.
|# ? Feb 12, 2018 01:07|
Holy poo poo. Thanks for this.
|# ? Feb 12, 2018 03:52|
Back to Republican songs, with the tune Little Armalite
And it’s down along the Falls Road is where I long to be
Lying in the dark with a provo company
As noted above, "provo" means a member of the Provisional IRA, the main generation of the IRA during the Troubles.
The Falls Road is a Catholic area in Belfast, though originally a more socialist and less Republican area until increasing sectarian violence in 1969 started pushing the population into the Republican side. As I understand it, as Loyalist-Republican violence flared up, the Falls Road initially welcomed the arrival of British troops, seen as impartial peacekeepers, but a series of clashes ruined the "honeymoon period" the Brits had, and the IRA gained support in the area and established an arms dump within the neighborhood. This lead to the Falls Curfew in 1970, when the Brits in search of weapons locked down the neighborhood with barbed-wire barricades, chucked tear gas in the streets to get rid of the youths throwing rocks at them, and conducted house to house searches. Like a lot of British ops, it was Pyrrhic victory, in that they confiscated some 100 firearms, plus grenades and explosives, but completely turned an entire large neighborhood against them and into the arms of the IRA.
A comrade on me left and another one on me right
A clip of ammunition for me little Armalite
Okay, the Armalite, and I'll try to keep it in layman's terms rather than all gun-geeky. At the start of the Troubles, the IRA had a number of arms dumps left over from the failed 1956–1962 Border Campaign, but basically everything they had was civilian weapons and lots of World War II surplus. Basically any small-arms the British or Americans had in WWII, the IRA had a smattering of them, which meant they had a lot of rather overpowered and bulky (and often bolt-action) rifles and kinda crude submachine guns.
This was before Libya got involved in covert aid, so before the IRA was supplied with good insurgency gear like AK-47s and RPGs. Lacking any good source in Europe, and smuggling from the Middle East being to challenging, the IRA reached out the the Irish diaspora in the US for funding and weapons. Sympathetic dealers and smugglers arranged for some 2,500 modern American civilian-market (thus semi-auto only) assault weapons to be smuggled to Ireland on merchant ships, then across the border into Northern Ireland.
The main rifles the diaspora sent were the AR-15 and the AR-18, both Armalite designs. The AR-15 was the rifle the US adopted during Vietnam as the M16, and we use an updated variant to this day. The AR-18 was a weird duck; basically after selling the rights to the AR-15, Armalite had to come up with a new design they could market exclusively, so they made a rifle very similar to the AR-15, but with a simpler bolt system, and that could be made from folded sheet metal rather than milled aluminum (thinking they could license the design to countries with limited production abilities). From the actual receiving end, the two rifles are essentially identical since they shoot the same bullet to the same speed at the same rate. On the user end, the most significant difference is that the buttstock of the AR-18 can fold, making the rifle a much more compact package, while an AR-15 can't fold because a long spring in the mechanism sticks back into the buttstock. I haven't seen any clear numbers on 15 vs 18 in the imports, and you see both in IRA propaganda photos, but you do get a few songs that make specific reference to the "Armalite" folding down to a small package, so it has a certain mystique as the "IRA rifle".
AR-15 at top, AR-18 at bottom. The version of the AR-18 in the pic is from the US "Assault Weapon Ban" ear (1994–2004) so doesn't fold, but usually they have a hinge on the stock.
He hit me with his rifle and he kicked me in the groin
During most of the Troubles, the Brits carried the FAL/SLR rifle, which is way more powerful, but less controllable (and thus harder to fire rapidly with accuracy) and much heavier and bulkier than the Armalite. In 1987 the Brits switched to the SA-80, which fires the same cartridge as the Armalite and is even more compact.
And it’s down in the Bogside is where I long to be
The Battle of the Bogside was a 1969 riot in Derry, and one of the first big fights of the troubles. Interestingly, it didn't really involve the IRA much, but was a pretty grassroots brawl with mostly improvised weapons.
This reference is good timing coming after the previous song, now that folks know about Derry and Orange Parades. I mentioned that parades are a Big loving Deal in Northern Ireland, and this is a classic example. Derry was under a lot of tension due to legit Catholic concerns about gerrymandering and voter disenfranchisement policies that undermined them, favoritism in jobs and housing for Protestants, etc. Twelfth of July rolled around, in an already fraught environment, and while marching the city walls the Orangemen passed by the outskirts of the Catholic bogside, and some youths in the crowds started chucking pennies down at Catholics, and Catholics responded by shooting marbles at them with slingshots. This escalated, and people started throwing stones, with the Catholics also throwing them at Royal Ulster Constabulary cops (who due to discrimination were almost entirely Protestant).
The RUC moved in to try to divide the two parties, but at least some cops were encouraging Protestants to throw objects at Catholics, and when the police removed a barricade at the edge of the Bogside to relieve crowding on the street, the Catholics interpreted that as the RUC inviting a Protestant mob to riot in their neighborhood. The Derry Citizens Defence Association set up shop in the neighborhood and started coordinating the production and distribution of petrol bombs and barricades. This was much worse rioting than the usual, so the RUC was underprepared, with too small of riot shields, and lack of flame-retardant clothing so took some nasty injuries from petrol bombs. The RUC wasn't allowed to bring out armored cars and guns, so they flooded the Bogside with tear-gas, which is never a great hearts-and-minds strategy. And things were unintentionally further inflamed when the government of the Republic of Ireland announced they would set up military field hospitals at the nearby border to tend to anyone fleeing Northern Ireland for medical care, which got spread by the rumor mill and misinterpreted by both sides as a RoI promise to invade to defend the Catholics.
In the end, the British Army dispatched some troops who'd been on a nearby warship, and they arrived in Derry to separate the two factions. Initially this was seen even by the Catholics as a positive, expecting that the Army would be neutral and not just back the Protestants like the RUC. It worked this time, but as seen even in this same song, the "honeymoon period" only lasted so long, until the Army lost credibility as a neutral peacekeeper.
Well this brave RUC man came marching up our street
Six hundred British soldiers he had lined up at his feet
I haven't directly covered the RUC yet, so now's a good time.
The RUC was formed in 1922 after southern Ireland was split from Northern Ireland, and from the beginning was (unlike standard British bobbies) an armed force due to the ongoing threat of sectarian violence in the North. Initially, authorities made the smart choice to require 1/3 of the force to be Catholics (which were easily filled by pro-UK Royal Irish Constabulary cops fleeing to the North after the War of Independence). However, over the years doubts of the loyalty of Catholics led to a reversal of the policy and discriminatory hiring, so by the 1960s only 12% of the RUC was Catholic.
While many Catholics were skeptical of the British Army after the Falls Curfew incident, they had a broad hatred of the RUC which was basically seen as a force out to defend the Loyalists and stomp on the Catholics. In the modern day there's been a lot of investigation into RUC malfeasance, including many accusations that the RUC directly aided illegal Loyalist paramilitaries with intelligence, and preferential enforcement with a generous "blind eye". The RUC was dissolved in 2001, a few years after the Good Friday Accords, and replaced with the less-military Police Services of Northern Ireland.
Really not your standard bobbies:
And it’s down in Bellaghy is where I long to be
This one I'm unclear on; Bellaghy is in County Derry but I'm not easily finding any specific incident there that's famous.
Well the army came to visit me, it was in the early hours
With Saracens and Saladins and Ferret armoured cars
This is one of my favorite bits; the line scans well, but also since I served in a Light Armored Vehicle unit in the invasion of Iraq, I have a fondness for funky LA vehicles.
The Ferret is freaking adorable:
They thought they had me cornered, but I gave them all a fright
With the armour piercing bullets of me little Armalite
I will note that, even with AP ammo, the 5.56mm bullet of an Armalite isn't going to punch through any of the above vehicles. That's not to say it's totally useless; standard procedure in assymetric warfare is that you would use small-arms like rifles to force the vehicle to "button up". That is, make anyone sticking their heads out the top duck down and close the hatches, so now they've lost a huge percentage of their vision and almost all their hearing, and you can keep using the rifle to aim at vision slits, try to bust periscopes and spotlights and other peripheral gear on the outside, and while they're half-blind and deaf you bring up some guys with petrol bombs or an RPG and take advantage of their lack of awareness to put a proper attack on them.
And it’s down in the New Lodge is where I long to be
I'm not finding any one specific battle, but New Lodge was a heavily Catholic and very pro-IRA neighborhood in Belfast, and during the 1970s shootings there were a daily occurrence. Wikipedia offers the helpful fact: "The corner of the New Lodge Road and the Antrim Road was statistically the most dangerous spot to stand at in Northern Ireland."
Well when Pryor came to Belfast to see the battles won
The generals they had told him “We’ve got them on the run”
Lord Jim Prior was Margaret Thatcher's Secretary of State, and took a direct hand in Northern Ireland in 1981. The IRA almost managed to assassinate him, but interestingly enough in the modern day he's been pretty balanced in his views on the conflict.
Here's a 2014 quote from Lord Prior: "Violence probably does work, it may not work quickly and may not be seen to work quickly but in the long run one has to look back and say it did work."
But corporals and privates while on patrol at night
Say “Remember Narrow Water and the bloody Armalite”
"Narrow Water" refers to the Warrenpoint ambush of 1979, the single most effective IRA attack on the British Army in the whole Troubles. Using two IEDs, they killed 18 British troops and wounded six, losing no IRA men in the process and escaping across the border into the Republic. Major propaganda coup, especially since the IRA announced they'd explicitly targeted the Parachute Regiment in revenge for Bloody Sunday.
The IRA used a method which any of us who've been in Iraq would recognize. They'd been taking careful intel notes on how the Brits reacted to IEDs, and planned the double-IED attack accordingly. The initial attack was 500lbs of explosives in a lorry parked by the side of the road that took out the last lorry in a convoy. Exactly as the IRA had predicted, the surviving British troops dismounted and set up a command post in a nearby gatehouse just down the road, and outside that gatehouse was 800lbs of explosives in milk buckets, which they detonated by remote control and took out 12 more troops. Both of the explosions were so powerful that some of the bodies could only be found in fragments.
The attack was planned by the South Armagh Brigade, who I'll cover in a later song. Suffice to say, that unit was incredibly effective, far beyond the average IRA unit, despite only having some 40 active fighters, so it's no surprise that it's one of their attacks that turned out to the one of the highlights of the Troubles.
And it’s down in Crossmaglen is where I long to be
Crossmaglen was an area in South Armagh where one battalion of the Brigade was based, and an extremely hostile and dangerous place for the British Army; they called it "Bandit Country". The post has gone long, so I'll just leave this link for anyone curious: Wikipedia: The Troubles in Crossmaglen.
For those particularly curious, here's a 1976 BBC Panorama documentary (30min) about Bandit Country: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hDqAUSE8zI8
|# ? Feb 15, 2018 03:49|
The attack was planned by the South Armagh Brigade, who I'll cover in a later song.
Oooh, is that one gonna be the IRA disco track?
|# ? Feb 15, 2018 04:49|
Oooh, is that one gonna be the IRA disco track?
Nah, disco is firmly in the Loyalist camp.
But since you asked for it, I'll pull out a track I was saving for later. I wasn't going to analyze it because I can't understand 80% of it due to a combination of the Ulster accent, terrible mixing, and incessant "WHOMP WHOMP" of the drum machine.
Before I post it, let me attempt to describe this clip in words:
-- Fundamentally it's a take-off of Bob Denver's "Country Roads" but rewritten to be about Shankhill Road, a major Protestant stronghold in West Belfast
-- It's done as a sort of techno cover with heavy drum machine and synthesizer phaser effects constantly in the background
-- It appears to be sung by several teenage girls that have trouble hitting some of the higher notes
-- The visuals are some cool footage of Orangemen parades, but the poster has constant star-flares bursting over the imagery. Not just star swipes from image to image, just starbursts popping up randomly on the screen.
Without further ado: "Take Me Home, Shankhill Road"
(if anyone can understand this song, feel free to analyze or summarize)
TapTheForwardAssist fucked around with this message at Feb 16, 2018 around 07:41
|# ? Feb 16, 2018 07:01|
|# ? Feb 22, 2018 22:32|
There IS an IRA disco track:
at least I think this is disco
is this disco?
|# ? Feb 18, 2018 01:01|